Challah recipe

Four-plait challah
 Making challah was one of the reasons I started making bread by hand, after having had a bread machine for six months or so. However, I struggled for ages, not so much with the form but with the taste, which was always a bit bland - like normal white bread in a challah shape. I persisted with complicated recipes that required me to separate egg yolks and whites, for some reason, and also in the belief that real challah has honey in it. None of these were very satisfactory, so eventually I gave up.

I was inspired again years later by my nephew, who was making bread - and challah - and so this time I went and found a much simpler recipe. I've adapted it slightly; I'm not one for lots of experimentation, and once something works I stick with it, but I found this still wasn't giving me quite what I wanted. What I have done is to combine a technique from other breads of creating a starter the day before, to allow the initial batter to ferment a little and add some taste and texture. It seems to work quite well.

Thursday: the starter

On Thursday, ideally in the morning but in the evening if you forget (I do, often), make a simple starter.


  • 125g strong white flour
  • ¼ tsp (approx 1g) dried yeast
  • 150g lukewarm water


  1. Mix the flour and yeast together.
  2. Add the water and mix well to a smooth batter.
  3. Cover and leave until Friday morning. If you want to have a peek a few hours later, you'll see it bubbling nicely.
  4. Optional: give it another good mix on Thursday evening.

Friday: the bread

On Friday morning, make the bread, which should be enough time to be ready for kiddush in the evening.


  • 375g strong white flour (plus a little more for the work surface)
  • 7g dried yeast
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 1 whole egg and 1 yolk (plus another for an egg wash)
  • 45ml sunflower oil (plus approx another 15ml for kneading etc)
  • 10g salt
  • 50g lukewarm water (plus a little more if needed)


  1. Mix the flour, yeast and sugar together in a large bowl.
  2. Make a well in the middle of ingredients and pour in the starter from yesterday.
  3. Gently combine the starter with the flour, keeping it in the well in middle, to make a sponge. You're trying to get the batter a little thicker but still leave dry ingredients round the edge.
  4. Leave the sponge for about half an hour.
  5. Mix the remaining ingredients (egg, oil, salt and water) in a jug.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the sponge and mix it all together into a dough. It should be firm but not too dry, so add a little more water if needed.
Here's where my laziness creeps in. If you prefer (some people say it gives a better result), you could now just knead the dough for 10 minutes. Kneading dough for ten minutes is a pain, so here's what I do:
  1. Shape the dough into a rough ball, cover the bowl and leave the dough for 10 minutes.
  2. Put a little oil on the work surface, take the dough out of the bowl, wipe the bowl clean and oil it.
  3. Knead the dough for about 30 seconds and put it back in the bowl.
  4. Cover and leave for 10 minutes.
  5. Knead again for 30 seconds, then back in the bowl.
    • You might want a bit more oil on the work surface if necessary to stop it sticking too much.
  6. Cover and leave for 10 minutes.
  7. Knead again for 30 seconds, back in the bowl.
  8. Cover and leave for 30 minutes.
  9. Knead again for 30 seconds.
Then the process is the same:
  1. Cover the dough and leave to rise. The time varies, and the recipes usually say "until doubled in size", although I have a hard time telling what "doubled" is, so usually I just leave it for a couple of hours.
  2. Put some flour on the work surface.
  3. Take the dough out, press the air out and make it into a rough ball again.
  4. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, as equal as you can (you can weigh them if you want).
Each of these pieces will become a challah, so do the following instructions for each:
  1. Get a baking tray out, and cover it with baking parchment.
  2. Divide the dough into 4 pieces, weighing if you want to be precise.
  3. Press each piece into a rough rectangle, then roll it gently into a sausage shape.
  4. Lay each piece out on the work surface, so that one end of each piece is joined together and the other ends are fanned out.
  5. Gently dust the pieces with flour.
  6. Plait the pieces.
    • There are lots of ways of plaiting and the best thing to do is watch a video - there's loads out there!
    • I usually do a four-plait challah, as shown in the picture at the top, as it's easy to split the dough into four pieces.
    • You can also do round challahs for Rosh Hashanah, as shown below.
  7. Put the challah on the tray and cover.
  8. Leave the challah to rise.
  9. Heat the oven up to 180C (fan).
  10. Prepare an egg wash with a beaten egg.
  11. Bake in the oven for about 30 mins, until golden and firm on the bottom.

Two round challahs, one coiled (left) and one plaited (right)

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